It was built by order of King Charles of Anjou, work started in 1283 and continued until 1324 under the direction of French architect Pierre de Chaul and Pierre d'Angicourt.
The church was originally consecrated to St Domenico in 1255 by Pope Alexander IV, as since 1231 the Dominicans friars, not having a home in the city, settled in the existing 10th century structure which was once dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel in Morfisa.
The church is located in the square with the same name in the popular district of Spaccanapoli. In the center of the square is an obelisk -a so-called "plague column" - topped by the statue of Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order.
The original designer of the spire was the Neapolitan architect Cosimo Fanzago and construction was started after the plague of 1656 and finally finished in 1737 under Charles III, the first Bourbon monarch of Naples. The street ( Via Benedetto Croce) was one of the three main east-west streets of the original Greek city of Neapolis.
The style reflects the Gothic canons (three naves, side chapels polygonal apse and transept wide), with the particularity to be facing away from the square. In fact, it can be seen from the back of the apse, in which, in the Aragonese period, a secondary entrance. was added.
The original structure was also heavily altered due to restoration work needed following an earthquake and fire, but it was in the seventeenth century that most significant changes took place, including one in 1670 that recast the structure in the style of the Baroque. In the 19th century, however, the church was restored to its original Gothic design.
Finally, in modern times, the restoration of 1953 were carried out to eliminate the signs of the bombing ten years prior. On this occasion were rebuilt a coffered ceiling, roofs, parts of some chapels, the floor, the eighteenth-century organ and were also brought to light some frescoes by Pietro Cavallini. Later, in 1991, the staircase leading to the apse was also restored.
The monastery annexed to the church has been the home of prominent names in the history of religion and philosophy. It was the original seat of the University of Naples, where Thomas Aquinas, a former member of the Dominican community there, returned to teach theology in 1272. The philosopher friar and heretic, Giordano Bruno, also lived here at some point.
The rectangular Sagrestia, with marble floors and wood-carved sacred furniture, preserves 45 sepulchral coffins of noblemans of the Kingdom of Naples. The Sagrestia’s vault, decorated with stucchi and fringes, includes a fresco of Solimena (1709).
Artistically, the most notable feature are the frescoes by Pietro Cavallini in the Brancaccio Chapel (1309), depicting Stories of St. John the Evangelist, Crucifixion, Stories of Magdalene and the Apostles Peter, Paul and Andrew.
In addition to the works of art preserved in it, the church also kept the Flagellation of Caravaggio ...
...and Tiziano's Annunciation (transferred to the Museum of Capodimonte), the Raphael Madonna of the Fish (brought to Spain by the viceroy Duke of Medina and exhibited at the Museo del Prado Madrid),
and two Saints by Guido Reni (missing) and the Madonna and Child with St. Thomas Aquinas by Luca Giordano (stolen).